'Gold' catches racing thrills, agony of life

"Gold," by Chris Cleave; Simon & Schuster (327 pages, $27)

TV producers who create those biographical segments on Olympic athletes could only wish that Chris Cleave wrote their scripts.

In "Gold," Cleave fashions a life-and-death story of two female cyclists, long entwined athletically and personally, competing for a single spot on Great Britain's Olympic team.

"Gold" feels like a marriage of "Wide World of Sports" with Lifetime television in the best way. Cleave's exciting race scenes and coach talk feel spot-on. As for the drama between Kate Argall and Zoe Castle, he has made the stakes as high as possible, and is fair to both.

Kate, Zoe and Jack, Kate's husband, have been linked since they arrived as teenagers for elite cycling training in Manchester. Now in their early 30s, they are training for their last chances at Olympic gold. Each, in some way, is also coming undone from stress. They book traces how they try to cope.


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